Caitlin @ Pilarcitos

Just received this snapshot of Caitlin (Team Sheila Moon) tearing it up last weekend at Pilarcitos on her chocolate brown Team VK 'cross bike....sweet!

Photo Credit Paul Guerra

And from last week....Caitlin $1 richer!

Photo Credit Slonie


Cross Racing & Cable Routing

Last year I sent a frame to East Coast racer James and he recently broke the rear derailleur hanger due to muddy course conditions. It's an easy fix with dropouts from Paragon Machine Works...the hanger will be replaced with a stiffer 7075 aluminum version. Over email I told James about our new Euro-style cable routing and some subtle changes to the lower yoke. As a racer, his feedback is very valuable to me as a designer...see below:

Photo Credit Marco Quezada

BTW, I love the frame. It’s a well designed bike. I hope to be able to add a second one for the next year’s season. I’ve seen a few of the Vanderkitten issue frames here on the East Coast. Those I’ve talked with have high praise as well. The attached photo is of me racing in a Nor’easter at the Granouge CX race last Saturday. I snapped the hanger shortly thereafter.

The frame changes sound cool. I noticed the Euro style frame on the blog this summer. Very nice frame. My older bikes [steel IF Planet X's] all have top tube routing. In all honesty, I dont think there is much difference between top tube vs. downtube routing. I've found that the collection points for mud are the brakes and front derailleur itself. The yoke dosen't catch any more stuff than other designs. I think the yoke design gives more clearance betwwen the crank arms, chainrings and stays towards the BB junction. I race in both the New England and the Mid-Atlantic areas. Mostly dry to damp conditions overall. When we do get mud it mixes with grass and makes things clog up quickly. That's what happened when I snapped my hanger. In retrospect, I should have swapped bikes midway through the race. Again, thanks.

Here's another useful thread on 'cross cable routing from the Mud & Cowbells site:


Which type of routing is better? Everything on the top tube? Ultimately it's the rider's choice and Ahrens Bicycles is happy to deliver your preference.


American Pride

A new batch of WiseCracker LITE bottle openers is on the way.....100% made in the USA.


SF Bike Expo Next Month

Last week I signed up for the SF Bike Expo at the Cow Palace - check out the press release. Last time I was at the Cow Palace was for a Metallica concert - funny. Looking forward to displaying a new Monster Cross frame and our usual assortment of road and mountain bikes. Plenty of WiseCrackers will be on hand just in time for the holidays.

Builder Feedback from Oregon Manifest

Two weeks after the event, many builders are talking about their experiences at the Oregon Manifest event....great feedback can be found here. I definitely agree that the design criteria, race and final judging were not well aligned. After investing a fair amount of resources on this project, I'm a little frustrated by the results (or lack thereof) for Ahrens Bicycles. Some award winning bikes clearly had construction issues which is pretty surprising given the 'constructor's challenge' event theme.

On the flip side, the purpose of events like these is to garner exposure while providing participants a chance to learn some new things. I saw innovative design solutions all over the place and this by itself is inspiring for my own future projects in the commuter/utility space. My bike was the only entry made from aluminum which shows how slanted events like this are towards steel frames. My main takeaway is that The Donna is a versatile bike that works well for my customer and meets her needs nicely.....and hopefully this success leads to more frame sales to keep the business moving.


Bikerumor Pic of The Day

This is sweet! Vanderkitten team rider Caitlin grabbing some coin on her chocolate brown 'cross bike...


Oregon Manifest & The Donna

Last weekend we traveled to Portland, OR for the Oregon Manifest Constructor's Design Challenge. This event involved designing, building and racing a commuter bike in and around Portland. My friend Donna raced her bike, aptly named The Donna, nearly 77 miles over varied terrain including road, gravel and dirt. Below is a picture from the start....Donna was one of only two women racing. I am very proud of her for tackling this event only one week after her wedding! Big props to newlyweds Donna and Lee from Ahrens Bicycles! The second woman to race was Natalie from Sweet Pea Bicycles racing on a custom Ahearne commuter bike.

The first starting group was Donna, Natalie and a guy racing on the nearly 60-lb Metrofiets cargo bike. After about 25 miles, the real hard part began with a challenging gravel fire road climb that was relentless. Not too many photos are available because during Donna's climb, Steve Rex, another racer/frame builder was injured with a broken collar bone and I took him to the hospital! Luckily Steve is OK and recovering back home in Sactown.

Here is a video of the gravel climb before the beer stop.

The Rapha beer stop was at mile 38. Donna's husband Lee and I enjoyed a couple of beers at this check point...this is where I found out Steve Rex had injured his collar bone. Curtis Ingliss from Retrotec called the Rapha race coordinator from a farm and relayed the message.

Here's our crew at the finish including college friends Chris and Henry and of course Donna and myself. Not sure where Lee is hiding...probably scoring us some more beer.

There were many aspects of turning The Donna into a true commuter bike from its origin as a single speed . I prototyped a rear rack with some cardboard and a fabric bag from Andronico's market. This exercise helped me determine the rack proportions before actual fabrication began.

Four solid aluminum struts support the rear rack and these are hard-mounted to the frame. Adjustable eyelets were sourced from Bontrager to allow height adjustment and final leveling of the rack. One special feature of this bike is the integrated lock. A custom seat clamp was developed to include a Thule lock core and a coil lock. Turn the key and the lock releases the cable which can then be used to lock the bike. I'm really proud of this feature because it's truly unique and someone even asked me "where did you buy that lock?" at the event.

The front rack is cantilever-mounted to the head tube using WiseCracker extruded aluminum mounts. The upper mount is a tall headset spacer and the lower mount cups the fork crown and is installed with a star nut on the underside. Wooden slats were stained black and mounted to both racks to achieve a classic look.

Special thanks to Princeton Tec for supplying the lighting solutions for this project. Light and bright, these babies are sick.

All these extra features added some weight to the overall bike but it was still manageable to ride. Special thanks to everyone that made this bike and event possible...there are way too many to list here.